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Ziggy lends a helping paw

FAIRVIEW Rise resident Peter Whitty has not only received a helping paw, but also a special new friend in the form of hearing dog Ziggy.

Ziggy was presented to Mr Whitty, who has a hearing condition, by Australian Lions Hearing Dogs and Clarence Lions Club to help alert him to household sounds and to provide him with companionship.

Ziggy’s trainer at Lions Hearing Dogs, Nick Liemandt, said the two-year-old Havanese dog had been training for the past five to six months on how to respond to noises such as a phone, doorknock, doorbell, oven timer and smoke alarm.

“Ziggy will give Peter independence as well as a bit of security,” he said.

“If his wife Jenny is out, Ziggy will be able to help him answer the door and also inform him of when the oven timer goes off and when the washing is done.

“He’ll also be able to accompany Peter into public places and make people aware that Peter has got issues with his hearing.”

Mr Liemandt said Ziggy would alert Mr Whitty by touching him with his two paws and then taking him to the source of the sound.

“The smoke alarm sound works differently, and what would happen is when Ziggy hears that distinctive sound he’s trained to touch and drop as a warning signal – we don’t want Ziggy running into a fire,” he said.

“When that happens, Peter will know there is an emergency and he may have to get himself out.”

Mr Liemandt stayed with Peter and Jenny for a week for follow-up training for Ziggy, before representatives from Clarence Lions Club took over for a 12-week period to ensure Ziggy responded to the sounds.

Even though they are used to having pets around the house, Peter’s wife Jenny Whitty said Ziggy would be a welcome addition.

“More than anything I feel more confident that I can now go out and Pete will be safe, and that he’ll have a companion and someone with him,” she said.

“He just loves him, he thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread.”

Ziggy will be the 589th dog delivered by Lions Hearing Dogs since its inception in 1980 and will be the third hearing dog sponsored by Clarence Lions Club.

Clarence Lions Club president Christine Tilyard said she was happy to serve the community and provide aid to more people like Mr Whitty.

“People need us, people need our help,” she said.

“Lions Club is always looking for new members to come and be of service to the community.”

Caption: From left, Clarence Lions Club president Christine Tilyard and member Marj Brian with Lions Hearing Dogs trainer Nick Liemandt and Ziggy.